February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a good time to review some “PEARLS” of wisdom about ensuring children have the best dental health because cavities are no fun. First the good news – while cavities are the most common chronic disease of childhood according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they are completely preventable. The not so good news is that more than 1 in 5 children aged 2 to 5 years has at least one cavity and children from low income families are more than twice as likely to have untreated cavities. This is why ChesPenn has launched a medical dental integration program that allows the Public Health Dental Hygienist to visit with parents during children’s medical well-child checks to do a quick screening and some dental health education. The hygienist can even schedule a dental appointment
during her visit with the parents.
Many parents don’t realize how early dental visits should start. They may also have heard that since baby teeth fall out, it isn’t important for children to see the dentist until the permanent teeth start to come in. However, the health of the baby teeth can affect the permanent teeth and cavities at any age can hurt. Small children aren’t always able to communicate what is hurting them, but they may have trouble eating and may not be able to focus or may act out in day care or school.
We recently caught up with Sherri Mills and her children Mai and Sarai Bivens during the children’s dental checkup at our Center for Family Health at Eastside in Chester. Sherri had been taking them to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for dental care but learned that ChesPenn offered dental care right in her community. She shared that she and the children really like the dental staff and appreciate the convenience. Mai and Sarai have been coming to the dentist since they were small and they both feel great about getting regular checkups and cleaning. Mai let us know that he brushes and flosses every day.
Here are some PEARLS of Wisdom from the CDC for ensuring the best dental health for your child:
Protect tiny teeth by caring for your mouth when you’re pregnant. Your child’s future oral health starts with you.
Ensure to wipe your baby’s gums after each meal.
Avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle.
Remember to brush your child’s teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. For children younger than 2 years, consult with your dentist or doctor about when to start using fluoride toothpaste.
Limit drinks and food with added sugars for children. Encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables and have fewer fruit drinks, cookies, and candies. This gives your child the best possible start to good oral health.
Schedule your child’s first dental visit by their first birthday or after their first tooth appears. Their tiny teeth matter!
We would add that fluoride varnish and dental sealants are great tools for fighting dental decay.
How does your family focus on children’s dental health?